Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Heading for Newfoundland

On the Rocks: NewFoundland 

After I left Ottawa and the warm hospitality of my friends, the ride through Quebec to Quebec City was uneventful.  I was impressed with the farms and the quality of the work being put into these farms.  The roads were good, and the weather was very good.  While I had the best of intentions of finding a good camping spot in Quebec City, arriving at the end of the work day was somewhat disconcerting, in terms of finding anything in the traffic.  I stayed at a hotel and reminded myself to better plan for cheaper accommodations in the future.

The next day, I did an early morning tour of the Plains of Abraham, and was pleased to learn that the Abraham of note was not the Old Testament guy, but rather a farmer from the early 1600's.  I was now beginning to get a sense of the the early history of Canada with dates such as that.  

It wasn't too hard to imagine the Redcoats and the Bluecoats as they battled away on these slopes.  I had taken an interesting photo of the the death of Wolf from the musuem in Ottawa, so I had an idea of the actual battle.

I was anxious to get on the road and after a short tour of Quebec City, I crossed the  bridge and headed towards the Gaspe.  Again, the farms and the view of the St. Lawrence were very interesting.  I remember learning about the seigneuries in school, and sure enough, all of the farms stretched back from the river or the highway in a longitudinal fashion.  Again, I could not get over how neat and organized the farms and homes appeared to be.  Rather than heading right to the end of the peninsula, I took a turn towards New Brunswick and found a campsite for the night.

The rivers in New Brunswick were spectacular.  The locals would anchor their canoes and fly fish for Atlantic salmon from their boats.  I believe that the river below is the Miramachee.

I travelled through Moncton, and realized that I was arriving a day after the huge funeral for the three RCMP officers who were shot in the line of duty.  I cannot imagine the pain and suffering their families and colleagues must feel over such a senseless act.   I was finding that the distances for travel in the Maritimes were somewhat less than I had imagined.  I made good time through Nova Scotia, and stopped at an information  center where I was advised to make a reservation for the ferry to Newfoundland.  Now that I had a schedule, I found that I stopped less and moved more directly towards Sydney.

As is my habit, I landed in North Sidney, Cape Breton,  with 10 or more hours to wait for the night ferry.  I decided that Blondy needed an oil change.  I found a Harley/Yamaha dealer in town, and they agreed to take me in the afternoon.  I wandered around the area, and I was able to see a good deal of the surroundings.  There are interesting salt water lakes which cover a large part of the southern part of Great Breton Island.  Bras d’or lake takes up a large chunk of the southern portion of Cape Breton.  Of course, there are many small communities surrounding the lake and some very nicely appointed homes as well.  I had made my appointment at Ramsays Harley upon recommendation of a couple of gents at the local Timmies, in the morning.  While I was there waiting for the oil change, I had an interesting conversation with one of the sales managers, a former motocrosser and a native of North Sidney.  The folks did a quick job on Blondy, and surprise, surprise, their labour rate was only $75.00, which was a nice change from Alberta and Ontario rates.

I checked out the local marinas and the boats at the docks in North Sydney.

In the afternoon, I wandered around North Sydney some more, and in the early evening met with the salesman Wally, who was riding a very nicely appointed Yamaha.  He invited me back to his place, and we talked about our kids, as his son is working in Fort Mac.  It was nice to relax for a few hours before the ferry and to have a local give me the insight into the economy of Cape Breton, as well as offer some insight into the ride in Newfoundland.  I found the Cape Breton folks to be very friendly and helpful, and interested in my ride, and more than willing to offer advice.

I entered the ferry toll booth at 9:00, earlier than I had been told to show up, but I wanted to be sure of not missing the ferry and having lots of time to tie Blondy down.  There was another bike from Ontario waiting, and  very soon afterwards, we loaded onto the ferry.  Far from the 5 hour loading of the La Paz/Mazatlan ferry, the crew was organized and by 11:45, we were underway.  The ferry offers good tie-down systems, and Blondy was hitched to the deck by a 4 point system, again unlike my La Paz experience, where we completely neglected to tie the bikes down and very nearly paid for it when the hurricane hit.  The overnight passageway to Newfoundland was uneventful, except for the fact that they would not let us sleep on the floor of the cabin.  I suppose I might have snuck outside to sleep on the deck, but I decided to try and get some rest on the reclining seats.  I slept about the same as when I was camping, without the need to get up and pee every two hours.  I  was somewhat pissed to hear some chatty Cathy start up a loud conversation with her neighbour 2 hours before we docked at Port aux Basgues.  There was a lot of hurry up and wait until we were ready to depart, and then there was of course a huge rush of trucks and traffic, all bound for the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) and north towards Corner Brook.  The highways are for the most part, very good. I soon pulled over and allowed most of the ferry traffic to get on the way.  As soon as I could, I began to get off the TCH and visit some of the outports and ride some of the dirt roads which were to the west of the TCH.  Before Stephenvile, there must have been 20 different little communities, some with only a few houses and perhaps a firehall if they were big enough.

I decided to bypass Cornerbrook. It looked like a well-developed city, and I was beginning to feel the consequences of a restless night.  I found a good campsite in Gros Morne National Park, complete with a shower, which was overdue.  I had passed through Deer Park, where my nephew flies into as he drops the many workers from Fort Mcmurray in Alberta who come home for their two week shift.  Gros Morne Park is very interesting, and I dropped into most of the outports along the west coast of the island, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  Again, I was surprised at the number of people who are living in these small communities.  Their houses are extremely neat and well-kept,and I felt somewhat ashamed of my place, with the boats and fishing gear hanging all over the place. Some of the homes have huge lawns, which must take the owners hours to trim.  Deer Lake is the turning point for the journey to the Northern peninsula, and essentially to travel to L’Anse Aux Meadows means that one must return to Deer Lake in order to visit the middle and eastern portions of Newfoundland.  
 A nice dry campsite in a National Park.  Showers were great.
 Lots and lots of lobster traps.

I dip my boots in the waters of the St. Lawrence and the Strait of Belle Isle

The beaches were covered in washed cobbles. It looked like there were agates everywhere.

The boats get bigger as I moved north up the peninsula...

I had to stop and take a picture of this helicopter for my son...

I was amazed at the deep draft of these offshore trawlers.  Of course they are fishing in some of the meanest waters in the world.

As I moved further up the peninsula, I was getting closer to the orginial site of the Vikings.  I was amazed at the beauty of the area, and how nice the people were to me. 

During the next few days, the ride up 430 towards the tip of the peninsula was spectacular, and the weather was cooperating as well.  The water was on my left, and I was never more than a few kilometres from the Gulf at any one time.  Around Anchor Point, another small outpost community, I could begin to make out the outlines of Labrador, across the Strait of Belle Isle.  As the Gulf narrowed into the strait, and interesting phenomenon occured.  I was beginning to see Ice floes and the occasional berg.  The first one that I saw was in the middle of the strait, and I could  not tell if it was a large white fishing boat or perhaps an iceberg.  Where have those eagle eyes gone?  Soon, as I rode northward, the air got colder, getting down to 5 degrees, and the water began to fill with ice floes and bergs.   By the time the road moved eastward at Eddies Cove, I had seem more icebergs and floes than I had ever seen in Patagonia.  At this point in the ride, I was less than 100 kilometres from the northern tip of the peninsula, and the site of the first Viking settlement in North America, around 1000 AD.

In the early evening, I rolled into St. Anthony, the headquarters for the Grenfell Mission. I remember reading about Dr. Grenfells’ work when I was a kid.  There were a number of sites in St. Anthony which honoured his life work, which was carry for the people of the outposts of Northern Newfoundland and Labrador.  I found the only Timmies between St. Anthony and Deer Lake, and fought the internet for awhile, hoping to some positive news about the school wars in BC.


It seems that a full scale walkout is the only answer to the stalled or non-existent negotiations.  I know that many teachers will be worried about the consequences of this act, and I suspect that more than a few parents will be yelling about their kids being “pawns” in the system.  When I hear that 18 year olds are making over $100,000.00 at Fort McMurray, with two weeks on and then two weeks off, I know that the system is screwed up.  Young teachers spend countless hours preparing and teaching young minds for a third of that salary, and have to fight to pay back huge student loans.  I sympathize with the teachers, particularly the ones in British Columbia who seem to  be demonized by the current Liberal Government.  I digress, but the issue of teacher negotiations is close to my heart, and it is difficult to not feel the pain that some folks are undergoing as a result of the current stalled talks.

I arrived at L'Anse aux Meadows in the early morning, and I was able to tour the neighbouring community and the site at will.  The landscape is foreboding, and while it was mid June, the temperature was about 5 degrees Centigrade.  The folks who landed here and spent enough time to build an outpost were truly formidable explorers.  In the day of GPS and charts, it is difficult to imagine the skills and courage were necessary for the Vikings to return to this small strip of land for a number of years.

I decided to return to St. Anthony for some breakfast and to review my plans for the trip South, back down the peninsula.  On the way into town, I managed to get some shots of the local killers:

There were three in this herd, that I could see.  A few days earlier, I saw a cow with a set of twins.  I just read in the local paper where another motorist was killed in a collision with a moose.  These guys are not like our Island deer, who seem to hop out of the way....

The men and women of the northern peninsula rely on wood to keep their homes warm during the winter.  This means huge quantities of wood needs to be cut during the winter time and hauled by sled and ski doo.

 The beaches along the peninsula are covered with a rich black sea weed, may feet thick in some cases.  I think that the locals use the sea weed to nourish their local gardens, which in many cases are set up ride beside the hiway.

 The arches were formed by wave action.

Soon after this photo of the wind blown trees, I found a camp for the night.  During the night the rains came and made my Newfoundland holiday somewhat more challenging.  During the worst of the gale in the morning, I rode from Gros Morne park over to Central Newfoundland, finding a room to dry out my gear in Grand Falls-Windsor.  I cannot overemphasize how helpful and open the folks have been.  They are open to chat me up, give directions, and give me a wave. The demeanour of the Newfies that I have met remind me a lot of the Guatemalans, and I am very happy to have travelled here and experienced the folks for myself.

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